Culture & ManipulationNSDRecruiting

Obsolete Applause: What Mary Kay’s Monthly Magazine Won’t Tell You

Written by The Scribbler

I have a foot-high thick assortment of Applause magazines dating back to 1977.  It makes a pretty handy (albeit low) end table if you throw a glass top on it and add some opulent home décor from the local Stuckey’s:  Star Trek collector’s plates, statuettes of President Obama flashing the “hang loose” sign (and carrying a surfboard), and the ever-popular “Single Fake Rose in a Plastic Vial filled with Fake Water.”  There’s no denying I’m brimming with high class, people.   Or brimming with something else; my eyes are brown, after all.  Heck, I’m open for interpretation.

Applause magazine makes a much better article topic than it does furniture, which is why I’m writing today.  I’ve discovered a striking fact regarding Applause’s feature stories:  many of them have surprising sequels which are never mentioned.  The best part is that you can discover them yourself if you’re willing to go beyond the initial pink fuzzies.

Check this out.  It’s often suggested by Mary Kay leaders that consultants use Applause magazine as a recruiting tool.  NSD Linda Toupin’s recruiting guide even goes so far as to match Applause’s various elements to different personality types:  Dominant ladies appreciate seeing commission figures, Influence types go nuts over pictures and recognition, Steady types swoon when reading family and heart-based stories, and Compliant types want information in general.  Show the right personality type an NSD’s commission numbers or a heart-wrenching I-story and one’s chances of hooking a new recruit will increase with each layer of lie told.

Here’s a thought.  What if the Applause information used to recruit others is grossly obsolete?  That would mean that prospects made the choice to join Mary Kay based on a feel-good story that in reality was a lie.  The story may have been true a few years ago, but with the changing of circumstances came the changing of the story’s elements, and yet it was told anyway to soften the heart of that last prospect needed to close out someone’s DIQ.  Let’s take a look at some examples.

The March 2006 Applause has a piece titled, “Dimensions of Caring,” which introduces us to Mary Kay Executive Senior Sales Director Stephanie Valure.  ESSD Valure describes attending her first Mary Kay retreat and adds, “The whole first night I sat there, starry-eyed and stunned…that was the night Mary Kay truly came into my heart…I knew that night I wanted to be an Independent National Sales Director.”

The article mentions Valure’s mother, Senior Sales Director Toni Hutchinson.  Hutchinson raves about her “really substantial commission check,” despite the fact that she’s nowhere to be found in that issue’s list of Top 100 commission-gaining Directors.  ESSD Valure bubbles, “Before I started my Mary Kay business, I was following in Mom’s footsteps.  Now she’s following in mine!”

The third player in this game is Valure’s best friend, Future Executive Senior Sales Director Staci Venable.  Venable gets a shout-out from Valure in Valure’s effort to “pass on what she’s learned from her Mary Kay mentors” before ESSD Valure closes the article with a flourish:  “When I discovered you can have it all…I could hardly believe it….thank you, Mary Kay!”

Inspiring, isn’t it?  Makes you want to crank up the Whitesnake tape and stare into the sunset like the lone wolf visionary that you are!  Here you go again on your own, going down the only road you’ve ever known!  Behold, three women who left lives devoid of purpose and plan for the beautiful Mary Kay dream of having it all!  And now they’re great big girls living the great big director’s lifestyle!  If I’d stopped there, I’d be willing to bet that I’d easily snag all 24 recruits needed to make directorship.  But I’m not going to stop there.  I’m going to dig deeper, as I hope every last person out there who’s considering the Mary Kay opportunity does.

Would you still feel inspired if you learned that ESSD Valure fell to SSD in 2009?  How about upon learning that in 2010, she’d lost her directorship entirely and is currently an IBC?  Why isn’t that in Applause magazine?

What about Valure’s mother?  In an eerie prophetic fulfillment, SSD Hutchinson did indeed follow in her daughter’s footsteps, lost her directorship, and now bears the rank of IBC.   And what about Valure’s best friend, FESSD Venable?  Believe it or not, Venable lost her directorship and is an IBC, too, having truly received what was passed on from her Mary Kay mentors.  Three for three and that’s game, sports fans.  I’d mention ESSD Cindy Machado’s finger-wagging statement, “If you treat your business like a business, it will pay like a business!” , but Machado’s got problems of her own, having suffered a double demotion from ESSD to SSD.  Oh credibility, thou art fleeting!

Here’s another example.  Recently, a fellow PTer and former director helped me track down a sugar-sharp FESSD who boasted in a recruiting notebook that her “highest total income so far in one month has been over $14,000.00!”  She even dropped the old classic, “Mary Kay is the greatest opportunity for women!”  It was such a great opportunity that this FESSD jumped ship 3-4 years ago, yet the recruiting notebook – complete with copies of the former FESSD’s commission checks and company worship – remains posted on a director’s website.  How many women are seeing the former FESSD’s checks and gleefully signing up, not realizing that the FESSD is no longer in Mary Kay?  This is the stuff lawsuits are made of, as potential recruits are essentially being told jokes without being given the punch lines.

That being said, here are some tips to help you avoid the recruiting trap of name-dropping:

  • The next time a director looking to recruit you hands you a copy of Applause or one of its articles, note the date.  If it’s two years old or more (though there are always exceptions), there’s a chance that the stories may contain outdated elements.  The same holds true if you’re shown a Word document or binder containing lists of director names and/or copies of commission checks; an older date on a commission check should have you asking why it hasn’t happened more recently.
  • If you want see if someone in an Applause feature article is on the rise, sitting on a plateau, or manning her lifeboat, pop her first and last names and her state (information commonly provided in Applause) into the Mary Kay consultant locator found on Mary Kay’s website.  If she’s paying for MK’s website service, her name should come up, along with her current rank.  If a director tells you how great it is that you can promote yourself when you’re ready, and you run her name and learn that she’s been sitting at the same rank for six years, it’s time to ask her, “Is there any reason why you feel you’re not ready to promote yourself and – as your Mary Kay leaders often say  – become all that God meant for you to be?”  If you’re not familiar with the ranks in Mary Kay, take a peek at them here.
  • Sometimes an NSD’s commission numbers will be the lure.  NSDs don’t lose rank, but they can lose commissions!  Only NSDs with a commission over 10k are listed in Applause, a practice begun with the November ’10 issue.  You might be shown Executive National Sales Director Barbara Sunden’s $127,081 commission check for July ’10, but you won’t be shown that she took a pay cut of over 50k (to $76,261) the following month.  That’s your cue to ask why this has happened, and to a charter member of the Top Ten National Sales Directors, no less.  One would think that sitting at the top would make one immune to such financial inconveniences.

Keep in mind that there’s always the possibility that someone got promoted, of course, but this appears to happen less than it should in a company that claims to empower women.  As I page through my Applause issues, I noticed that while demotions were common, seeing directors sit at the same rank for years while others rode the rank roller coaster (going down and up and back down again) were common, too.  That’s strange to me, because if a director is constantly recruiting, wouldn’t she amass more than enough recruits to propel her to the top in a few years?  I suppose the answer would be “yes” if nobody ever left MK, but that’s not the case.  When people leave, it forces directors to jump on their recruiting wheels and run wilder than a Zhu Zhu Pet with fresh batteries.  That’s the nature of things when a company bases promotions on how many fresh recruits one can rake in and not by how much product one sells.

Please, dear readers, never let yourself be wooed by a Mary Kay I-story or a commission check at first glance.  Dare to question it and get the story’s sequel, because doing your best Sherlock Holmes impression now will save you an unsolved (beauty) case later!



  1. Fabulous story!
    I like nothing better than to use MKC’s own tools to make them look like hogwash.

  2. Tracy, you stated that NSD do not lose rank. So, in other words, once they make it to the level of NSD, thy can never lose the title. correct? Even if they lose most of their off-spring SD?
    I noticed that my former adopted SD, who became a NSD in the last 3 years, has lost half of her off-spring SD in the last year or so. But, still maintains her area with the title of NSD.

    • NSDs that debuted prior to the new qualifications made around 2010 will never lose their title. Those that debuted since must maintain so many first-line Directors and a few other things. MKI made these drastic changes because too many NSDs were coasting, not helping their Areas, and reaping trips and a nice life without producing anything for the company. If you didn’t even make $100,000 in commissions for the year, you were allowed to still go on the annual NSD trip.

  3. Oh, those pesky details! What REEAALLLLY happened to that FESSD? Hahaha!

    I too had stacks upon stacks of Applause magazines that of course were included in all my recruiting folders! And let me tell you, it felt so very freeing when I finally threw them all into the recycle bin! Once you’ve been in the company for any length of time, you’ll find that all the material starts repeating itself. It’s all the same song and dance. It’s a dog and pony show lol!

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